Originally posted Feb. 11, 2013 for IndySportsLegends.com.
Near the end of William Shakespeare’s Richard III, the featured character is leading his troops into a battle. The night before, ghosts of his victims appear in his dreams repeatedly, tormenting the king and openly rooting for his attackers to succeed. During the battle, Richard III gets unhorsed. Before he is slain, he cries out, “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!”
I wonder if Bill Self is starting to see ghosts at the University of Kansas. Jayhawk fans already are. And though tonight’s matchup with Kansas State is of prime concern, the struggle to find a court general might be a bigger one. Just this month, KU had climbed into the Top 5 nationally based on a 13-game winning streak, but three straight losses over a week turned that into ancient history. It was bad enough to lose a better than 30-game homecourt winning streak to a good team like Oklahoma State, but the Jayhawks failed to show up and deserved every point of their upset loss at TCU — any way you look at it, one of the biggest upsets in college sports history — and then KU capped off the week by losing at Oklahoma.
To start, KU simply doesn’t have a point guard, and it’s amazing what the absence of a true floor leader can do to negatively affect a team in critical situations. Elijah Johnson is a great shooter, but he has struggled royally in the transition to the point guard. Reserve Naadir Tharp can attack the rim with no problem. Finishing is where he has issues, and that’s problem regardless of what position you play. On top of that, this KU team seems to either enjoy living on the wild side, with close victories against Temple and Iowa State before the current three-game skid, or it can’t get out of its own way.
Naadir Tharpe played well against K-State, but he needs to keep improving for KU to have a legitimate chance of going deep into the NCAA Tournament. Kansan.com photo.
Part of this is the point guard situation. Part, though, is this Jayhawk team does not seem to be as mentally tough as KU fans and Coach Self have come to expect (part of that discussion is Jeff Withey hasn’t developed as expected…partly with Thomas Robinson leaving KU last year). And part of that, as weird as this may sound, may be the presence of star forward Ben McLemore. The freshman vaulted himself into the lottery NBA discussion almost immediately, but recently KU broadcasters have faulted McLemore for not making his teammates better aside from handling the scoring chore…a rather stunning indictment for somebody who is in his first (and likely only) season with the club. Whatever the reason, KU went from firm to fragile almost overnight. And now, a conference title might be worth sacrificing if necessary to find a point guard to run the ship in the NCAA tournament, the real battle that lies ahead.
Even though they now chase in-state rival Kansas State in the Big 12, making the Big Monday prime-time matchup even more intriguing, I wouldn’t say Kansas has been totally unhorsed just yet. Wait for the Big 12 postseason and the NCAA playoffs to make that determination. However, the ghosts are already telling KU fans to despair. Just like they did to Richard III.